Red Pesek earned his nickname from his red hair, but perhaps he should have earned a nickname for his amazing military and community dedication. Clarence Alfred Pesek was born near White River, SD, to his Czech parents in 1922. He quickly began to go by Red and only signed CA Pesek to be formal. Red grew up on a typical South Dakota farm. The farmhouse was small but it held his large family; he had six siblings, one older and five younger. The whole family worked hard daily, but they still had time to play. Red’s family spoke Czech until a school opened nearby and Red learned English when he was eight years old. Red and his siblings had to walk miles in order to attend school, which didn’t bother Red as he was always a curious boy and enjoyed learning, especially about science. He was raised by his mother, Christina K Pesek, and his grandfather because his dad, Adolph G Pesek, had died in a farming accident. This put a lot of responsibility on Red, as well as his mom, because although his brother Ralph was actually the oldest, the younger kids went to Red for advice.
Christina eventually moved her family to Rapid City, SD. Gone was the one room rural school house and in its place a more urban school system. Raising seven children and ensuring their education was no easy feat for a single mother in the middle of the 20th century, and additional trials, such as moving the family house across the road, only added to the difficulties. However, it all paid off as every child graduated from Rapid City High School. As the boys grew up, they became interested in motorcycles. At the first Sturgis Motorcycle Rallies in the late 1930’s, the Pesek brothers, including Red, could be found smiling on their bikes. Christina was used to having upwards of ten motorcycles parked outside their Rapid City home. They were some of the first members of the Rushmore Motorcycle Club, based out of Rapid City, and the Pesek boys could often be found terrorizing the town on their bikes.
The three oldest boys, Red, Ralph, and Paul, were drafted into the Army and Navy as World War II began. Red was assigned to the 102nd infantry division and entered the European Theater after D-Day. Red, being the curious man that he was, wanted to understand the way the Germans were thinking before he fought them so he read Mein Kampf (see photo above). Red often wrote letters to his mother asking about her and his other brothers. Ironically, his other brothers wrote their mother asking about Red. Even after enduring many battles, and witnessing the tragedies of conflict, he never lost his curiosity or joking manner.
After the war Red returned home with a Purple Heart, and other recognitions and commendations. He settled down, as much as a Pesek boy could, and found a wonderful girl to marry, Pearl. Pearl was a sweet girl, and when she informed her priest she intended to marry Red Pesek, he responded “Oh Pearl, not one of the Pesek boys!” This story brought much humor to their family. Red and Pearl had seven kids; Vicki (Pesek) Wood, Jim Pesek, Janet (Pesek) Ressl, Anita (Pesek) Moline, Deb (Pesek) Tieszen, Jack Joseph Pesek and Jerry Pesek. With seven kids, Red needed a more substantial income.
The money Red was making as an electrician after the war was not sufficient so he began electrical wholesaling. Christina also moved in with Red and Pearl and required financial assistance. Red figured it was the least he could do, especially after all she had put up with from him over the years. Red wasn’t just an electrician; friends affectionately referred to him as a jack of all trades. He had skills in plumbing, carpentry, and car repair. He always tried to pass this important knowledge on to his children. Red could work and play hard; always looking to help better the community. He founded the Rapid City Little League team while continuing to attend the Sturgis Rally with his siblings. However, Red didn’t forget his military experiences. Many of the people he fought beside became his best friends and he frequently attended reunions of the 102nd division.
Red had what his family calls “Red Dog-isms” or catch phrases he was well known for. Some of those include “It’ll go places where you can’t drag a rope or shine a flashlight”, “CryKees!” (an exclamation of surprise), “Yuck-a-puck” (anybody not doing what Red wanted), and “since 19 ought 37″ (or any year to show that something had been done that way for a long time). These favorite sayings live in the hearts and minds of his children, who share their fond memories of their father. Red was curious and full of jokes until the end: he died on June 10th, 1993, of heart failure, an issue that is common among Pesek men. His service was held at St. John the Baptist Church in Rapid City, South Dakota, and he was buried in Black Hills National Cemetery because of his outstanding military contributions as well as his community involvement. His wife Pearl is now buried next to him as well; she passed in 2007. The Pesek family has many family members interred at Black Hills National Cemetery and are proud to honor their family’s military accomplishments.
Written by Sidney May